Tags: / / /

Programs Wed 4.10.2024

Six New Fellows Join the 2024 Doc Story Lab

It’s true! No, seriously: it’s true. And by “it” we of course mean the stories at the heart of Film Independent’s 2024 Doc Story Lab. A one-week intensive designed to provide support for filmmakers whose projects are in post-production, the Doc Story Lab is one of two Documentary Labs amid the larger Film Independent Artist Development umbrella of talent incubators, which for over 30 years have been the place to spot future media-visionary movers-and-shakers.

This year’s participants will engage in five days’ worth of workshops, guest speaker sessions, and one-on-one mentorship with leading professionals in the nonfiction film space. including Doc Story Lab Lead Creative Mentors Chris Shellen (Steve! (Martin) A Documentary in 2 Pieces) and Anayansi Prado (Paraiso for Sale) and Editing Mentors Christy Denes (Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult) and Sara Newens (Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields). Not to mention plenty of networking opportunities with advice on the craft and business of documentary film.

Past Film Independent Documentary Lab projects include the Oscar-nominated films Ascension and Minding the Gap, as well as Black Snow, A Suitable Girl, Rich Hill and United Skates. Guest speakers at will include Film Independent Spirit Award winner Set Hernandez, Tracy Droz Tragos, Megan Gilbride, Midge Costin, Andrew Gross, Maria Santos and UCLA Documentary Law Clinic’s Dale Cohen & Loralee Sundra.

Past Fi Documentary Lab project ‘Sam, Now’

“The six Fellows in this year’s Documentary Story Lab bring us unique visions from Ukraine, Mexico and all across the US,” says Daniel Cardone, Film Independent’s Manager of Nonfiction programs and Fiscal Sponsorship.

Making movies is harder than ever, of course, and we hope you’ll lend these unique and inventive projects and their stewards the attention they deserve. The 2024 Doc Story Lab supported projects are:

  • Project: Flowers of Ukraine
  • Director: Adelina Borets
  • Logline: Natalia lives peacefully in a green paradise with two husbands–Ukrainian and Russian. She defends her own land against Kyiv’s developers until a real fight starts with a full-scale invasion.
  • Project: I Want to Kill My Grandfather
  • Director: Lilyana Torres García
  • Logline: This documentary is my attempt to find the best way to kill my grandfather, guided by a detective and accompanied by my film crew. We plan on tracking him down to uncover the secrets of a family fragmented by the violence in Mexico. Oh yeah and of course, kill him…
  • Project: Natchez
  • Director: Suzannah Herbert
  • Logline: Natchez is a feature documentary that explores history and memory in the American South.
  • Project: Pine Curtain Fighters (working title)
  • Director: Kenny Rigsby
  • Logline: Maya and Norely, besties and newcomers to amateur boxing, pursue a big opportunity that could accelerate their early fighting careers. However, battling the highs and lows of friendship, mental health, and young adulthood, they discover that their most formidable challenge might be themselves.
  • Title: Unfiltered
  • Director: Chelsi Bullard
  • Logline: Generational trauma and unflinching courage collide in Unfiltered, a raw yet joyous coming-of-age documentary feature, where 15-year-old Tamia is determined to disrupt family cycles and reclaim her youth in a world that forces Black girls to grow up too soon.
  • Project: Untitled Texas Doc
  • Director: Cody Stickels
  • Logline: Filmmaker Cody Stickels’ examination of the death penalty in Texas turns into a personal journey when his father, John Stickels, a criminal defense attorney, attempts suicide months into filming. This 10-year journey captures their changing relationship amidst John’s late-life autism diagnosis and Cody’s gender transition, leading to parallel paths of self-discovery.


“Each project takes us on a creative and innovative journey across diverse landscapes both physical and emotional,” says Daniel Cardone, of the slate. “We’re so thrilled to be able to support these filmmakers in the program and through their careers.”

Now let’s meet the filmmakers:


Adelina Borets

Adelina Borets is a filmmaker born in Mariupol, Ukraine. Her documentary debut, The Wormwood Star (2018), won First Prize and the Audience Award at the 15th EKOFILM International Environmental Film Festival and Special mention – International Ethnographic Film Festival OKO, Camerimage edition in Toruń, Poland. Her narrative short, Eden House (2021) has received multiple accolades, including Best Feature Film at the Węgiel Film Festival in Katowice and a Special Jury Prize at Kyiv Critics Week. Borets is now developing several projects, including both fiction and documentaries, among which is Flowers of Ukraine. Her body of work reflects a profound commitment to storytelling that engages with critical contemporary issues. Borets is the founder and director of STROOM, an organization producing films, music videos and exhibitions.

Lilyana Torres García

Lilyana Torres García started her film career working in independent films, where she broadened her knowledge and understanding of cinema. She later worked in larger format productions, features and episodic series, where she grew her production and technical abilities. In recent years García has been expanding her work into documentary and hybrid formats. Since 2012, she has been working as a Creative Producer and Development Executive at The Lift.


Suzannah Herbert

Suzannah Herbert is a documentary filmmaker from Memphis. As an editor, Herbert has collaborated on high profile projects for Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga and Martin Scorsese, as well as editing 2022 SXSW verite doc A Woman on the Outside. Her directorial debut, 2019’s Wrestle (Oscilloscope, Independent Lens) was nominated for two Emmys, lauded as “superb” by the LA Times, hailed as a New York Times Critic’s Pick and named one of the top five docs of 2019 by the National Board of Review. She’s currently in production on Natchez, her second feature film.


Kenny Rigsby

Kenny is a narrative and documentary filmmaker from East Texas. His short films have screened around the country. His documentary series Fighter, which told the intimate stories of three small-town amateur boxers looking to turn pro, took home top honors at several festivals. In 2007, Kenny and his wife founded a nonprofit organization working to bring hope to teens silenced by sex trafficking and exploitation. His 15 years leading the organization solidified an empathetic worldview that has greatly influenced his approach to filmmaking. Kenny is passionate about positively shifting culture through storytelling and he makes films so that people might see one another; that they might empathetically engage the world around them and recognize their shared humanity.


Chelsi Bullard

Chelsi Bullard is a Memphis-born, Brooklyn-based filmmaker and editor with an unwavering desire to restore beauty, well-being and complexity in stories about Black folx. She is a 2022-2023 Brown Girls Doc Mafie Black Director’s Fellow, a 2023 Big Sky Pitch participant and a 2023 Cucalorus + Working Films WiP Lab recipient. She edited the feature documentary The Right to Read with director Jenny Mackenzie and executive producer LeVar Burton. Producing credits include the feature documentary Coming Around. Directing credits include the short documentaries On the Ledge and Hidden Wisdom. Bullard is an alum of the UnionDocs Collaborative Studio and the DocSalon Toolbox Programme at the European Film Market at Berlinale.


Cody Stickels

Cody Stickels (he/they) is a writer and director who aspires to tell character-driven work that celebrates uniqueness and encourages imagination. His current project, Untitled Texas Doc, most recently participated in the 2023 Sundance Producers Intensive and was a finalist in the 2020 Sundance Documentary Fund. Cody’s last film, A Night at Switch n’ Play, won the audience award for Best Documentary at New York City’s NewFest and screened at BFI Flare, Inside Out, and Woodstock film festivals. They graduated from New York University with a BFZ in Film & TV. They earned a Master’s Degree at Gallatin’s School of Individualized Study. Originally from West Texas, Cody now lives in Los Angeles and is a proud cat dad.


As part of the Documentary Story Lab, director Adelina Borets from Ukraine is the recipient of a Global Media Makers Fellowship making her travel and participation in the program possible. Global Media Makers is an exchange program sponsored through a partnership between Film Independent and the U.S. Dept. of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

For more information on any of our Artist Development Labs or the projects that have been developed in them, please contact us. Additional information can be found at filmindependent.org.

For over 40 years, Film Independent has helped filmmakers get their projects made and seen. The nonprofit organization’s core mission is to champion creative independence in visual storytelling and support a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision.

Film Independent Members watch nominees and vote for the winners of the Spirit Awards. To become a Member of Film Independent and make your vote count for next year’s 40th Annual Spirit Awards, just click here. To support our mission with a donation, click here.

Keep up with Film Independent…

Tags: / / /